LuFisto: I took two before my match with Leo-Na (on September 23) and that was already too much. I’m against painkillers and I didn’t even take some when I got my surgery [on my right knee] last year. I’d rather shorten any tours than to be addicted to that crap.
Mike Altamura: While you were in Japan you lived at the ARSION Dojo. Did the training turn out to be everything you expected? What were the most challenging aspects of the training? What did you learn from the trainers, Mariko Yoshida and Akino?
LuFisto: Living at the dojo was okay besides the fact that I had to chase the cockroaches to kill them! The only thing that bothered me is that AtoZ told us that they would pay for our food but on many occasions there was nothing left at the dojo… no milk, no eggs, no bread — so most of my money I spent on food which was not supposed to be the case.
As for the training, it wasn’t as hard as I expected. I thought they would kick the shit out of us but they were really respectful to everybody’s limits. I loved the training actually, especially the physical training. As for the wrestling training, it was good too but I didn’t like to do all those rolls because of my knees. I was good at that when I started but now, I have a certain handicap, if we look at it that way. Sometimes I felt like an old lady (laughs).
Speaking of my knees, the most valuable thing I learned from Akino and Mariko is how to work without creating major impact on my knee. Doing some moves a different way for instance.
Mike Altamura: The only fellow North American on tour with you was Sara Del Ray. Could you outline the bond you formed with her? What was it like living alongside her in the dojo?
LuFisto: I’m glad she was the one that made the tour with me. Each of us had a task: She would do the laundry; I would cook and clean our room. It was really easy to live with her. Also, not only is she a good wrestler but she also has a very good vision of what this business is about. Just like me, she hates the T & A stuff that is going on in the WWE and just like me, she hates the divas and finds them to be boring and sloppy. She loves wrestling at its purest; nothing to do with what I call ‘Lita flips’ and missed spots but pure technical, chain wrestling just like Chris Benoit and Dynamite Kid. She’s been wrestling for two and a half years now but she’s picked up really quickly the essence of what pro wrestling should be.
Too many girls today only do the minimum in the ring and are too involved in cheesecake pictures, bikini contests, etcetera. I haven’t met too many that are so committed to this business that they’d put their life in jeopardy and make a lot of sacrifices. Actually, I see more bikini than action pictures on most of the women wrestler’s sites. And what about those private and grudge matches that some girls are doing? We all know that not only the wrestling fans are buying tapes where two women are beating on each other without a crowd. Come on! According to me, it has killed a part of female wrestling and some ask why they are not taken seriously… look at your resume!
Mike Altamura: It’s been reported that on the tour Gaijins (foreigners) had to hide whenever a TV crew entered the dojo, and were not part of interviews, group photos, etcetera. Were you offered any explanation for why the promotion acted in such a way? Do you know if it’s been a tradition in the past to exclude Gaijins from Dojo press activities?
LuFisto: The explanation I got was that we were not part of AtoZ, that we were outsiders and that it was a common thing to do. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the business for quite some time and that I booked some shows myself but when you invest so much on something, you want to show it to the world and make that investment worth it. That’s what they do in Mexico; they make sure everybody knows that foreigners are there to perform for the people and that a lot of fans will come to the show to see what’s new. I guess it’s different in Japan.
From the people I spoke to, the business hasn’t been the same and everybody has financial difficulties, even in Japan. I guess they bring in Gaijins to have something different on their cards but there is no way that they’ll be involved in major angles. We can’t blame them to put the spotlight on their local stars after all since Gaijins are only staying a couple weeks or months.
Mike Altamura: On August 25, you made your AtoZ debut when you wrestled GAMI at the famed Korakuen Hall. How were you feeling backstage before the contest? What feelings did you experience when you started your walk towards the ring? How did the encounter go, and how do you think you were received by the audience?
LuFisto: I was really nervous and I had to visit the restroom a couple of times (laughs). However, I had so many things to think about that I didn’t pay much attention to how it would be, how would the fans react. I just went out there and did my job. Actually, it was when I heard my music that I started to get really confident. I don’t know why but it’s the way my body works I guess. I hear the music, the character comes to life and I’m a whole new person.
As for the match, I believe it could have been better but I’m really happy with it. Come to think of it, it was my favourite match [from the tour]. A lot of big moves with some technical were included in the 12 minutes. I love long, hard fights. Of course, the Japanese style is different from what I’m used to, and the rules are too, so I think I was lost just a little bit. People told me it wasn’t showing but still, I know I was and being a perfectionist, it bothered me.
As for the audience, I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction. They were screaming at me every time I would hit GAMI but also, they would applaud when I performed some nice manoeuvres or kicked out from a big one. The thing that amazed me the most is when they started screaming and even crying when I gave GAMI a michinoku driver onto the thumbtacks.
Mike Altamura: Did you continue to work the gimmick of a crazy, hardcore wrestler the entire tour, or did your character slightly transform as your time in A to Z progressed?
LuFisto: Well, I can’t really say I was all that crazy since I couldn’t do most of my moves anymore: no frankensteiner, no headbutts… actually, I never did so many clotheslines. They were choosing the moves I would do looking at a sheet I had given them [that listed various moves]. They would go: ‘This one, yes… No, not this one.’ It didn’t really help with the character development. The only thing that was left from the first match was me entering the ring area with my light tubes and tacks. Sometimes, I would try to use them but the referee constantly kept stopping me.
Mike Altamura: Could you explain how the storyline between you and GAMI evolved in such a way that you guys actually tagged together just weeks after the initial one-on-one contest?
LuFisto: The only explanation that would be logical is mutual respect. I believe that our characters fought so hard in that first match that they learned how to respect each other. They wanted us to create a new stable, “Extreme Bloody” with Sara Del Ray. The only thing though is that I’m the only one who had ever been part of death matches and Sara had never bled and she didn’t want to either (laughs). Damn, I can’t blame her!
Mike Altamura: On August 31st you were part of a bikini contest. Did you have any hesitations about participating in it? Could you explain how (if in any ways) Japanese conduct these types of contests differently to the mainstream North American organisations?
LuFisto: Oh yes. There was no way I wanted to be part of any bikini contest ever. But since I wasn’t booked for the dojo show like many others, they asked me if I could participate in the bikini contest wearing Baby A’s mask so there would be three Baby A’s on the show. There would be a Baby A vs. A-Baby match and me in the contest. When I learned that the contest was a joke and that it was to laugh at WWE Divas, I couldn’t resist. One girl would dress as Trish Stratus and GAMI would put on a lot of make up. Anyway, as I was told, GAMI always wins (laughs).
So I borrowed a bikini from Tamada, a nice black plastic one. I went to see Baby A to get her mask but she was in the same room as Hotta, Mariko and Tamada. When they saw me, they said, ‘No mask, too pweeetty. Go and show muscles,’ So well, that’s what I did. Although I wasn’t really comfortable, the reaction I had was great and seeing GAMI and Bull Fight Sora portraying the divas was so funny it was worth it.
Mike Altamura: On September 3rd, while training you injured your knee. How did it occur?
LuFisto: We were running and climbing the ropes fast, kind of going through a lucha libre routine with Ai Fujita. Hotta was also there watching. Some of the stuff I knew I couldn’t do because of my other bad knee so I just didn’t do them. However, I really wanted to try some stuff anyway… even if I knew it could be dangerous since I don’t have any ACL and meniscuses left in my right knee. So I ran, jumped on the second rope, then third where it all happened. My left knee bent the opposite way it is supposed to and I heard a big crack and felt something tear apart. The pain was so intense that I screamed at the top of my lungs and passed out — and all that happened in front of the boss. I was so ashamed.
I went to see the physiotherapist a couple of times and it felt good but not completely healed. He told me he couldn’t feel any ACL at the back of me knee, meaning it had been destroyed too with time. No wonder the knee bent on the wrong side. However, I told AtoZ I would be wrestling at the next show anyway. They then put me in a six-woman tag to reduce my in-ring time.
Mike Altamura: Four days later you wrestled in a six-woman tag match. How did you knee hold up during that contest? At that stage did you believe you would be able to wrestle for the entire duration you were scheduled to?
LuFisto: It was okay, although it felt so loose. It snapped a few times but nothing major. Anyway, there was so much tape on that knee that I couldn’t bend it. Actually, I did wrestle a lot more than I expected to. I started the match, fought outside and more. At that point, I was thinking that my knee could maybe hold on… but I didn’t know for how long.
Mike Altamura: Who did you wrestle on the Mima Shimoda retirement show on September 13? What do you remember from that night, and was there any sense of honour in wrestling on the same night that a Japanese wrestling legend called it a day?
LuFisto: I was in a six-woman tag again against Baby A, Command Bolshoi, and Ofune. What I remember from that night is that I did pretty well with my bad knee and that the reaction from the crowd was great. Some people were even screaming my name. The large crowd was also something amazing. It was really tough also to see Shimoda cry and how she went back to the locker room with her former partner as all the people were screaming her name and throwing pink streamers and as the ‘Ava Maria’ could be heard. I said to myself that night that if I had to retire, which I will do eventually, I would like things to be the same way. I was really honoured to see that with my own eyes and to perform on the same show.
Mike Altamura: On September 22nd you re-injured your knee while teaming with GAMI in a tag contest against Mirei and Yukari Kitao. Do you think working outdoors, in what was described as ‘freezing cold’ conditions may have made your joints more prone to aggravation? Describe the pain you felt during and after the contest?
LuFisto: The cold weather didn’t help for sure. I had problems keeping my knee warm. Anyway, we did the match and it was going so well, actually, it was great. But when I did my spinning heel kick to Kitao and fell back on the mat, it snapped again, almost like the first time. I couldn’t get up. I was holding on the referee for help. I finally got up, gave Kitao a fisherman brainbuster and a top rope leg drop, all the while screaming like hell for the three count. Then again, I could barely get up. I had to be escorted to the locker room by GAMI and Sara [Del Ray]. I guess it was only a matter of time before it snapped again. What can you do with a torn knee after all?
Mike Altamura: The following day you wrestled Leo-Na. How did you knee feel during that match? Did you immediately know you would inevitably have to return home?
LuFisto: I didn’t run at all actually, and I really think Leo-Na and I could have five-star matches because of our similar styles. I’m satisfied with the match. It was short and sweet.
As for going back home, I couldn’t feel my toes and the knee was starting to turn black so I called my mom, who’s a nurse, and explained my problem. She strongly advised that if I wanted to do any sport in the future I should go back home and see my orthopaedist as soon as possible before it would get worse. So I told Mariko Yoshida about what my mom had said and she admitted that, from her personal experience and because her mom is a nurse too and that she learned a lot from her, it was safer for me to go back home. So I did the match, and took my shower — where I removed the tape. The back of my knee was definitely black and we could see some veins or whatever it was — it was not pretty. I then confirmed to the AtoZ people that I would prefer to go back home if it was possible. They told me everything was fine and that they would take care of everything. That was before they announced to me that I had to pay to change my plane ticket back home — the day before I was leaving.
Mike Altamura: Where do you stand with AtoZ? Would they be interested in having you return?
LuFisto: Before I left, Mariko [Yoshida] told me that I could come back whenever I wanted because Japanese style wrestling was really in me and I could make great things happen in Japan. Some other girls also asked me to come back like Leo-Na, who wants a rematch, and also Mika Nishio who cried when I left.
However, I have to be honest with myself. With both knees in bad shape, I don’t think I can be part of big tours again. Maybe I could go for a couple of weeks but not months. Also, I heard the company is in major financial problems already so…
Mike Altamura: Looking back on your Japanese experience, was there anything that surprised you?
LuFisto: The thing that really surprised me is the fact that they had to prepare every match from… A to Z. I always thought that you are a good wrestler when you can get in the ring and work. Japanese prepare everything which was a bit disappointing to me. The fact that after my first match they were choosing my every move was something I wasn’t too comfortable with either. There was such a great reaction after the first match, why change everything? People always say that Gaijins can’t wrestle when you compare them to the Japanese — but what do you do when you are not allowed to work? Anyway, you do as they say and you shut your mouth. I didn’t expect to become a big star in Japan but [I did expect] at least use my abilities to their fullest.
Mike Altamura: What were your experiences like with the fans over in Japan? How did they differ from the North American audience?
LuFisto: The fans were great. Actually, I already got some e-mails from them asking me to go back which is really flattering. They are really respectful and when they like you they bring you gifts. A bit like in Mexico. They applaud when you do nice manoeuvres, regardless if you’re babyface or heel, which is really different from North America. Many of them would print pictures from my website so I could sign them too.
Mike Altamura: What’s the next step from here? How often will you be wrestling?
LuFisto: I really want to get my diploma in Multimedia design, which I will in April. Also, I think that I won’t wrestle more than twice or three times a month. Of course, there might be some exceptions if the bookings are really interesting.
As for wrestling itself, I don’t have any special plans besides a match I want to have with the ‘King of Hardcore’ Steve Charette. Before I retire, I got to have that match — I have many ideas for that one.